My friends from Portugal have a chorizo cooker (something, I believe, a bit like this), and they would like to use it in the UK. In Portugal they burn pure alcohol in it, which they purchase from pharmacies.

As far as I am aware, in the UK we are not able to buy alcohol so freely. Does anyone know of where alcohol can be bought, or of a suitable alternative fuel?

  • 1
    I edited the title because it sounded like you were asking about adding pure ethanol to a dish; please revise it if I got it wrong. Btw, it may not be called "alcohol" if you want it as fuel. In Germany, you can buy undrinkable "Brennspiritus" which is still mostly ethanol but is regulated differently from drinkable alcohol. There are probably similar products in the UK.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 21:33
  • You should be able to get it at any proper chemist. You could also just buy a cheap high-proof drink like vodka. Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 21:34
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    The obvious solution is to distill your own moonshine. You can have a drink for the cooker and one for the cook!
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 6:30

3 Answers 3


You can't use methylated spirit to cook that way. Methylated spirit contains 1% pyridine to deter people from drinking it, and it will taint the sausage (and no, they don't say what is in it on the label).

The way that excise tariffs are set up, you could buy pure alcohol in UK, but the duty would drive the price to about £75 per litre.

Better to buy pure alcohol in countries that are used to selling it retail (I always bring back a couple of litres from Italy, about €16 / litre).

  • As I understand it, you're only able to buy pure alcohol in UK for industrial / commercial purposes - you could theoretically pay the duty and buy it as a private individual, but you'd have a hard job getting anyone to supply you. Cooking in a restaurant might count, but you would have to keep a log book on how you use it if you wanted to claim the duty back. Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 1:11
  • Pyridine is a much worse poison that ethanol! Are you sure they actually use that in the UK? Most countries I know off list the bittering agent, typically Denatonium Benzoate
    – TFD
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 5:23
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    The recipe was established many years ago, and I remember the trouble I had actually finding out what was in there about 30 years ago. My chemist's nose says that they still add pyridine.
    – klypos
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 19:10

What you are after is commonly called Methylated Spirits, or Meths. Also known as denatured alcohol

It is made from ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and tainted with a dash of methanol to make it unfit for human consumption. It is usually coloured purple

In many countries it has a bittering agent added (check the label, or taste it), since many people seem to want to risk drinking methanol

The bittering agent may make your food taste very bad with such a cooker you pictured

What you need is "Industrial Methylated Spirits" from food product, paint or chemical suppliers. It generally does not have bittering agents or colouring added, just methanol

  • You can taste it by letting it evaporate on your skin, and then giving that a quick lick. If it had bittering agents in it you will know!
    – TFD
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 5:26

You could try getting some Irish Poitín, which is 180 proof, however, I don't know if it's legally sold in the UK. It is carried in the duty free stores in Heathrow and on the ferries to Ireland, though.

You can get laboratory grade, additive-less grain alcohol from here, however, it's £27.98/L + duty (and I think the minimum order is for 2.5L). I don't know if I'd trust something that wasn't explicitly listed as "food grade", though.

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